Healthcare staff refusing to be vaccinated against Covid need to be supported and educated by nurse experts rather than being forced into receiving the jabs, the RCN has warned.
However, if staff then continue to refuse the vaccine, they then should be risk assessed and ‘deployed appropriately’ to lower risk areas, it added.
In its response published yesterday to the Government consultation on making Covid-19 and flu vaccinations mandatory for frontline healthcare staff, the RCN urged caution around the policy, which it warned could risk ‘creating division where there should be conversation instead’.
The nursing body continued: ‘The RCN believes more can be done to support healthcare providers address hesitancy using the knowledge and expertise of nurses working in vaccination such as general practice nurses, public health nurses and immunisation teams.’
It concluded ‘support and education’ would be more effective in increasing uptake than compulsory vaccinations. Mandating vaccination may also ‘further marginalise’ and lead to higher turnover rates in groups more likely to be vaccine hesitant, such as black and minority ethnic staff, it warned.
Instead, staff refusing to be vaccinated should be supported by nurses with expertise in vaccination, it recommended. It pointed to improved flu vaccine uptake because of ‘senior nursing leadership support’ and campaigns to support hesitant staff in the past.
The RCN also urged the Government to consider the potential risk to service capacity and workforce before opting to impose mandatory jabs – ‘especially in the context of plans to increase elective care, and meeting the demands associated with winter’, it explained.
If jabs are made mandatory, the impact of the policy on recruitment, retention and planning for the delivery of safe and effective services ‘must be closely and transparently monitored,’ it said.
This comes after social care leaders told Nursing in Practice yesterday that the social care staffing ‘crisis’ is being exacerbated by the requirement for workers to receive both Covid jabs.
The latest data shows 93% of NHS healthcare workers have received their first Covid-19 vaccination dose and 90% their second dose, as of 28 October.
The Government consultation on mandatory vaccination of healthcare staff closed on 22 October.